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What is Your Growth Strategy for Your Ever-Growing Storage Needs?

Adnan Raja
by Atlantic.Net (181posts) under HIPAA Compliant Cloud Storage
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Many organizations’ IT departments fight a constant battle to satisfy the increasing demand for allocating storage pools to computers, servers, virtual appliances, and file servers. For such organizations, IT professionals must fulfill ever-expanding requirements for disk storage to support IT infrastructures.

As system information and data retention requirements change with the influx of new data services, data storage is in significant demand and is served in large part by the explosion of cloud computing solutions. IoT devices can be set up to constantly stream unstructured data to a storage destination and workplaces are rapidly digitalizing, both of which add to the ever-increasing demand on disk storage resources.  Thus system administrators are under growing pressure to deploy virtual machines and build core infrastructure services under tight schedules.

Data Storage Solutions

A dedicated hardware hypervisor can host multiple such virtual machines – all requiring backend disk allocation resources. The flexibility of creating virtual infrastructure and deploying cloud instances has put added demand on hardware- and software-defined storage systems. Storage Area Networks (SAN) are traditionally used as a static IT infrastructure storage asset, often located in on-premises computer rooms or data centers.

As the technology has evolved, new layers of storage devices have entered the market, such as Network Attached Storage (NAS). More recently, products such as vSAN have been developed specifically for hyper-converged environments.

Commonly, organizations purchase storage which has a pre-defined hard limit of the amount of available disk space that can be allocated. With such a setup, organizations can increase space by thin provisioning their data or opting to reduce fault-tolerant RAID setups during the initial configuration to free up disks. Alternatively, a storage expansion bay could be added to the solution.

Storage systems are indisputably an expensive IT asset to purchase outright; when budgeting a storage system, not only do you need to finance the actual cost of the device, but unlocking enterprise grade features typically means acquiring additional licencing requirements, not to mention the cost of a hardware maintenance agreement.

On top of all this, you also have to ensure the availability of a storage expert who is available to manage and maintain the storage platform. Often, storage consultants are in great demand, and employing the right caliber person is usually an expensive task.

It is possible to expand existing storage appliances as the demand increases, but expansion trays are expensive to purchase, and the process of ordering additional bays might need approval from many of your business units, such as purchasing and finance. You will also have to factor in the time and cost to install and implement the expansion. Additionally, many storage vendors have a hardware limit that determines how far you can expand the storage system.

For many organizations, this might present a challenge wherein there is a constant shortage of disk space availability. To combat this, we recommend that you develop a growth strategy for your organization’s expanding data storage needs. There are a number of ways to prevent your organization from starving of data unavailability.

Creating a Data Storage Growth Strategy

Before building your growth strategy, you should understand the extent of your existing business applications, your business’ data location requirements, and requirements for the speed and continuity of data access. Getting a handle on this aspect will help you learn the relationship between your data sources and applications, the amount of data being consumed, and who or what needs to have access to it.

With this information, you can establish a baseline of your existing data requirements; this baseline can help you project your future data requirements to support a strategy for growing your data capacity.

To do so, you must undertake a capacity planning initiative, which will help to predict your future data requirements. Using capacity planning, you will plot how data has been consumed over the past few years, identify existing growth trends, and categorize which applications’ data use is growing rapidly versus which applications are static in their data use.

This stage can also be used to identify applications which require rapid storage IOPS. With the information from capacity planning, you can plan to split these applications out onto their own storage or determine whether you need to invest in high-speed storage, such as completely flash-based storage, hybrid storage, or even SSD.

It is important to ensure storage systems are not over-provisioned and that the appropriate storage solution is purchased for the job requirement. For example, you don’t want ultra-fast flash storage for annual backup archives, as such a robust implementation would be a waste of resources.

Next, create a data hierarchy for your structured and unstructured data which will allow you to understand the relationship between different data and how the data is used throughout the business. With this data hierarchy and understanding of data relationships and use cases, you can gain an understanding of how your data can and will be used to meet current and future business objectives. Additionally, you can understand key requirements for your data’s use such as data availability, data privacy, data retention, and any rules to be considered for compliance and regulation.

Gathering this information will help you address the significant challenge of developing a data strategy and, importantly, help you to predict the future usage requirements of the storage. The next part of the discovery process is to determine whether your business requirements can be achieved on-premises or if you need to consider outsourcing to a specialist cloud storage provider.

Cost is usually the one of the primary deciding factors in deciding whether to outsource or build an in-house solution. As discussed before, the financial outlay for an appropriate storage solution on-premises can be incredibly expensive. One of the great benefits of migrating to a cloud storage provider is that this large capex expenditure on hardware for a storage solution is no longer necessary, as cloud storage is priced as an opex pay-as-you-go model.

A cloud provider will supply you with access to the very latest storage hardware with a dedicated or multi-tenanted hosted offering. You will usually be offered block storage, object storage or traditional file-level storage options which have a pre-define retention policy choice to suit your data retention needs. Production data is typically stored on encrypted, high-availability and high-speed storage, while rarely accessed data can be archived to cheaper “cold line” affordable storage.

The flexibility of a cloud platform gives you the ability to structure your data into an affordable but high-performance data warehouse configuration. Regularly accessed data can easily be made available on demand and can be protected by ultra-fast data replication services. Replication works at a hardware layer under the hood to secure your data integrity within a choice of regional or global data centers.

One of the greatest advantages cloud storage has over on-premises storage solutions is the ability to scale your storage needs to practically any size you could possibly need. This ability to virtually infinitely scale your storage capacity eliminates the need for significant and lengthy capacity planning and purchasing strategies, as the storage is available on-demand – when you need it.

Atlantic.Net’s Data Storage Solutions

No matter what your storage requirements are, the experts at Atlantic.Net can provide a solution to suit your storage needs. Find out more about how Atlantic.Net’s data storage hosting packages can help you plan storage for future growth and success.

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